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February 16, 2015 at 6:00 AM

MLS Countdown, No. 19: San Jose Earthquakes

We’re counting down the days until the Major League Soccer opener — Chicago at Los Angeles on March 6 — by marching backward through Matt Pentz’s projected league standings for upcoming season.

Today, we continue with a San Jose Earthquakes team that looks destined for the Western Conference basement.

A refresher: 2014 will go down as the year that Goonie Magic officially ran out. After swinging above its weight in 2012 en route to the Supporters’ Shield, San Jose took a step back in 2013 before crashing to last place in the Western Conference last season.

With each passing year, that regular season title looks more like the outlier than the norm: The Earthquakes have reached the postseason in just two of their seven years since returning to MLS and finished in the top six in the West just once.

The pessimist’s take: The Western Conference looks even tougher this year, with annual doormat Chivas USA being sent on a mandatory “hiatus” by the league and recent powerhouses Kansas City and Houston shifting over from the East to make room for the expansion clubs. Winger Yannick Djalo had his loan from Benfica terminated, robbing the ‘Quakes of one of their most intriguing attacking threats.

As such, it’s difficult to see San Jose scraping together many more points than the 30 it earned last year. At least in 2014 it lurked around the playoff positions for a while before fading late.

The optimist’s take: Dominic Kinnear is back.

Dominic Kinnear was an assistant coach on the San Jose teams that won MLS Cup in 2001 and 2003 and the head man when it won its first Supporters’ Shield in 2005. Now, after nearly a decade and two more MLS Cups with Houston, Kinnear is again in charge of the Earthquakes.

The old/new coach, combined with the opening of a long overdue permanent stadium in Avaya Stadium, has restored some of the good vibes that last year’s struggles stripped away.

It would be just like this team to buck the odds and push into playoff contention, shouldering and kicking aside the neutral favorites to snag one of six postseason berths.

Check back tomorrow, as the countdown continues with the No. 18 New York Red Bulls … 

 

| More in MLS, MLS Countdown

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